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Atlanta’s Bogdanovic plays through grief after death of countryman Dejan Milojević

Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) passes as he drives against Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

 Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) passes as he drives against Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

BY PAUL NEWBERRY contributing

ATLANTA (AP) — Bogdan Bogdanovic did not remember much about the game, even though the Atlanta Hawks won a thriller with a basket at the buzzer.

All he could think about was his friend.

Bogdanovic played with a lump in his throat Wednesday night after fellow Serbian Dejan Milojević, an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, died after suffering a heart attack at age 46.

“I don’t even know what I did tonight,” said Bogdanovic, who scored 12 points in Atlanta’s 106-104 victory over the Orlando Magic. “I remember warm ups. I don’t know what I was doing. I forgot a couple of my routines.”

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Bogdanovic stood somberly alongside his teammates as a moment of silence was observed before the game at State Farm Arena.

He came off the bench in his usual sixth-man role, playing just under 24 minutes.

But, at times, Bogdanovic felt like he was merely going through the motions. He found it difficult to comprehend that Milojević was gone.

“Like everyone else in Serbia, we couldn’t believe the news,” he said. “Because that guy was a beast. Always positive.”

The 31-year-old Bogdanovic never got a chance to play for Milojević after he began his coaching career, but they went against each other numerous times as players. Their shared homeland gave them a natural bond.

Bogdanovic especially admired the way Milojević carried himself away from the court.

“It’s such a sad thing to see how much impact he had on a lot of players, people around the world,” Bogdanovic said. “One thing that I will never, never forget is he never chased his career.”

Milojević won three consecutive MVP awards in the Adriatic League, taking those trophies in 2004, 2005 and 2006 when the 6-foot-7, 240-pound power forward was at the peak of his playing career.

“He was a great player, but he never chased his career,” Bogdanovic said. “He always wanted to live a family lifestyle with his kids in the good cities. He never chased money. I feel that’s a great example for everyone.

“He believed that if you don’t like your life, there is no way you can perform in your job, you cannot maximize your job,” the Hawks guard added. “You cannot maximize your potential if you’re not happy in your life because sometimes people value more their jobs and some other stuff.”

Milojević was in his third season on the Golden State staff. He previously coached in Serbia — where he once worked with Nikola Jokic before the two-time NBA MVP came to the United States — as well as Montenegro.

Milojević also was an assistant coach for the Serbian national team alongside current Atlanta assistant Igor Koskoskov.

“It’s tragic,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said. “They were close, very close. I know how difficult it is for him right now … his sense of loss.”

Bogdanovic briefly considered the idea of sitting out Atlanta’s game against the Magic to deal with his grief.

He decided to play, knowing that would be a more fitting tribute to his friend.

“I was thinking about not showing up tonight, when I couldn’t sleep and I was out of my routine,” Bogdanovic said. “But then I was like, he would not want me to do that.”

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by Taboola